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The Navy is an important component of the national defence of a country as it provides projection of force and security at sea, and it is the military branch that is responsible for maritime operations. Several countries, including the United States, operate and maintain a fleet of aircraft carriers, which are large naval vessels that are capable of mobile naval airborne operations. Aircraft carriers are the pride of the Navy, since they are capable of projecting a mobile air force almost anywhere in the world. Up to 30 fighter aircraft can be stationed on an aircraft carrier, and they can be launched anytime during a crisis situation in any maritime environment. However, because the launch and landing space is limited on an aircraft carrier, it is equipped with advanced launch and recovery gear, which are operated, maintained and repaired by aircraft launch and recovery specialists. This is a very important position aboard a naval aircraft carrier since the safety and speed of airborne naval operations directly depend on the ability of aircraft launch and recovery specialists to operate launching equipment such as catapults, and recovery equipment, also called arresting gear.
Aircraft launch and recovery specialists are usually enlisted personnel, and no prior job experience is necessary since the Navy provides comprehensive job training aboard ships and possibly at naval bases. However, physical endurance, attention to detail and mission focus are required for a successful completion of training and accomplishment of military job tasks. Enlisted men or women may be supervised by deck officers who ensure that launch and recovery operations are performed by maintaining proper standards of safety, speed and efficiency.
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Fighter jets are launched from aircraft carriers using catapults, which are the main components of launch gear. When they return from missions, fighter planes are recovered using arresting gears, which consists of special-purpose cables and hooks that quickly decelerate the aircraft, because, unlike on air force bases located on the ground, there is not enough space to land in the conventional manner. Additionally, aircraft launch and recovery specialists operate and maintain visual landing aid equipment, which helps the pilots to land their aircraft using visual orientation provided by their fellow crewmen on the aircraft carrier deck. The responsibilities of aircraft launch and recovery specialists include maintaining and repairing catapults, arresting cables, visual landing equipment, hydraulic pumps and other gear.
Aircraft launch and recovery specialists work in conditions of loud noises and exhaust gases created by aircraft engines, which means that they must follow proper safety procedures during operations. Crewmen usually wear special-purpose earmuffs that limit the amount of hazardous noise and protect them from hearing loss. Recovery and launch gear is usually operated through consoles, and there is a permanent requirement of testing the equipment to ensure that no malfunction occurs, which may create unexpected obstacles during a military mission or training drills. Aircraft launch and recovery specialists may also work on air bases located on land, where they may be required to install safety equipment such as crash barriers.
Becoming an aircraft launch and recovery specialist requires, first of all, dedication and passion for protecting the country's national security through military operations. Potential candidates don't need prior experience in operating machinery, but technical skills and the ability to quickly operate with hand tools is a great advantage. Physical endurance, resistance to stress, mission focus and being detail-oriented are also required for successful completion of training aboard an aircraft carrier. Upon enlistment, a contract will be signed, which represents the commitment of the individual to military service. The Navy provides comprehensive and detailed training that addresses technical aspects and safety procedures that need to be applied by aircraft launch and recovery specialists on the job. The candidate is expected to show discipline, mission focus and proficiency in operating and maintaining expensive and complex equipment aboard naval vessels.
Because the safety and integrity of aircraft and pilots depends on the proper function of catapults and arresting gear, any major mistake or failure to act in emergency situations may result in catastrophic consequences or the delay of a military mission. Aircraft launch and recovery specialists need to test their equipment frequently and report any malfunction on time. Responsibility and attention to detail are essential, and crewmen are expected to make quick decisions in a potentially stressful environment in conditions of uncertainty.
Aircraft launch and recovery specialists work aboard naval aircraft carriers. They are grouped in crews that work on the deck of vessels. The work environment is noisy, so they are expected to wear hearing protection earmuffs and helmets for head protection when they are on duty. Aircraft launch and recovery specialists may also be assigned to work on land-based air stations where they are in charge of installing safety barriers and equipment that minimizes the impact during a potential aircraft crash. Because the work environment creates the risk of accidents, specialists are required to maintain focus and follow proper safety procedures for their own protection and injury prevention.